tv Tavis Smiley PBS October 1, 2010 12:30am-1:00am EDT
it is called "aftershock". also tonight, grammy-winning singer seal is here. he is out this week with a critically acclaimed new cd. it is called "commitment". robert reich and singer seal coming up righ t now. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. with every crquestion and every answer, we remove it obstacles to economic empowerment one that question at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from the viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television]
tavis: robert reich is a former u.s. secretary of labor and a professor of public policy at berkeley. he is the co-founder of the american prospect and author of "aftershock". mr. secretary, good to have you back on the program. so many things i want to ask you. i will get to the book, i promise. these bushed tax cuts. democrats are saying that they will delay that vote until after the midterm elections. republicans want to press that vote on this side of the elections. what do you make of the politics around the bush tax cuts? >> i think democrats are making a mistake. having a vote before the elections would highlight the difference between the parties, because republicans want to
extend the bush tax cuts to the top 2% at a time when so much wealth and income has been going to the top, and those of most tax cuts were mostly benefiting the top 2% to begin with. and the obama administration say, no, we want the bush tax cuts extended for the bottom 98%. the budget deficit is big enough. we cannot afford to give the people at the top another $36 billion, a windfall they never expected. i think it is another fight the democrats should take on. it would illustrate the differences between parties. but apparently, the democrats are punting. tavis: what do make of republicans, republicans wanting to force a vote before the elections? >> republicans think that any tax increase, even on the top two% can be used -- on the top 2% can be used to show the democrats are in favor of taxing
everybody. the republicans have been getting away for years by saying that the a state tax, the death tax, any tax on people at the top will be a tax of everybody. that is just ridiculous. under dwight eisenhower, whom nobody would claim is a socialist or radical back of the 1950's, a former general, a republican, the marginal tax rate of people at the very top was a 91%, tavis. you know, it is ridiculous. we are talking about whether to go back to the clinton marginal tax rate of 39% at the top, as scheduled for the top 2%. it is a no-brainer. abbas if there are folks we do believe that we are in 2010 woefully overtaxed. >> the middle class is woefully overtaxed. working class, more people, mostly over tax. 8% of americans pay more and payroll taxes than in income
taxes. -- 80% of americans pay more in payroll taxes and then in income taxes. no. wages, as i say in the book, wages have flattened for 30 years if you adjust for inflation. obviously, people are overtaxed. but the top is not overtaxed. last year, you had the top 25 hedge fund managers, each of them making an average of $1 billion and paying an average tax of 70%. that is what somebody earning $30,000 pays. teavis: i ask this question the other night. politically understand why elected officials want to talk about the middle class all the time, but what troubles me is there is so much conversation about the middle class and nobody ever talks about a week working class. i talk about those who are in poverty. we do not want to say the word
poverty in our public discourse. the language seems to be all wrong. it is a minimum wage, not a living wage. we are experiencing a jobless recovery. call the whole language it troubles me and we do not seem to get to a composition about the very poor in this country. why is that? >> partly because the very core very often are regarded as somehow different -- the very poor are often regarded as somehow different. what a lot of people do not realize is that your chance, if you are just a typical americann , of a falling into poverty sometime during your four years of working life is one of three. the poverty rate keeps on going up. it is not just them. it is everybody now after the great recession knows that they have a pretty good chance of falling into poverty. so when i talk about the middle or working class, i am talking about everybody. everybody except the people at the very top. the people at the top -- when i talk like this, people say, you
are a class of order. i said that, i am not a class warrior. i am a class worrier. i am worried about what is happening in this country. when a record amount is at the top in wealth -- we have not seen this since 1928. you know what happened in 1929 with the great crash. we cannot hope for a great economic recovery. tavis: i think our hubris as americans, are false sense of pride, it does not allow us to wrestle with the fact that historically there is no am part in the world that did not -- no empire that at some point did not fail. i raise that to ask whether or not it is even possible that we can sustain this country at the rate we are going, where the rich keep getting richer, the class divide its greater. tell me why i should not believe that at some point we will
implode under the weight of extreme poverty in this country? >> the great depression brought the end of the time when most americans could continue to spend by going deeper and deeper into debt. for 30 years, the median wage in this country has gone nowhere. the court has gone down, the working class has gone down -- the poor has gone down. the people in the middle have seen their wages go absolutely nowhere. the people or did the only reason they could keep the economy going is because they went deeper and deeper into debt. but then that bubble burst. now we have to face for the first time in 30 years that it is not just the poor who are doing worse but the typical american worker smack in the middle is it doing worse. i think it is an opportunity for the middle class and the working class and the poor to get together and say, wait a minute. we need education and job training. we need better infrastructure. we need a tax structure that is actually favorable to us instead
of a favorable to people at the top. tavis: if these two groups do not come together as you just suggested to make this argument, what is america's next economy? >> i worry that it will be years and years of high unemployment, which it falls particularly hard on the working class and the poor. tavis: have we seen the worst yet? >> i hope we have seen the worst. my greatest fear is that unemployment keeps creeping upward. we never get out of double this. digits. we are at 9.6%. our politics turned uglier. when people are fearful and anxious, there are demagogues are around who want to channel that anger into the politics of resentment against immigrants against the pork, against even the rich. -- against the poor. or against muslims.
you already hear it in politics. you hear this hateful this. and i think it is absolutely related to the insecurity and fear and kind of frustration that so many americans feel. it is fodder for demagogues. tavis: americans keep feeling the aftershocks of this recession and many believe, as you know and every poll and survey and study, that president obama is not leading us in the right direction on the economy. your thoughts? >> every president that is credited or blamed for the economy, and much of it is beyond what a president can do. i am a huge fan of president obama. if there is any criticism to be leveled at all is that he did not anticipate, nor did his team anticipate how bad the economy was getting, how bad the economy they inherited from george w. bush actually was, and that the stimulus should have been even bigger.
the bailout of wall street should have come with strings attached so that wall street had to help main street, help small businesses, help people whose mortgages were under water. tavis: i have 30 seconds. i do not want to make a political, but it is in the news. the president has a chance to reshape his economic team. larry summers going back to harvard. christina romer now in a california. he should reshape his economic team in what way? >> i do not want to be presumptuous, but i do think he could sit in a way that spoke more to the problems of main street rather than wall street, in a way that is very sensitive to what average working people, middle class, poor people are going through in this country. we almost have to countries now. we have people are wealthy and everybody else. if you want an economic team and a president to really be fine- tuned, sensitive to what is going on for average people and
working people and the poor. tavis: she is a former secretary of labor, the author of the book "aftershock". >> good to see you. tavis: up next, grammy-winning recording artist seal. stay with us. please welcome seal back to this program. the three-time grammy winner is out with his latest cd. it is called "commitment". he is once again teamed with a legendary producer david frost appear. say that fast three times. what is the thing that naming, with numbering your cd's? >> i do not typically number them. they have just been seal, seal, seal. so people referred to them as
one, two, three, and four. six seem to like or real number. and i also like the term commitment, because that encapsulates everything that has been going on in my life for the last seven years. that is how come we came up with that title. tavis: speaking of commitment, this is a huge story as well. you got married in may. >> yes. tavis: some years ago. and every day, you review your files. every single year you guys do this? >> you hit upon the reason we do it -- the party. nothing to do with commit mccarrment. and stop working for a bit. tavis: you guys do this every may? it has a different theme every year? >> this year's party was a funny because when my wife first suggested it, i thought it was ridiculous.
brides and bridegrooms. i thought, that will never work. it was my favorite one so far. it looked like a scene from a movie. we had all our friends there, and all of the women were dressed as brides and the guys as bridegrooms. probably one or two of different sexual preferences wore dresses. we will not go into that. but it looks like a scene from a movie set. it was awesome. it was such a great idea. obviously, we gave everyone the opportunity to renew their vows as well. maybe you're joking and somewhat serious about the fact that it is a party every year. you were serious? >> no, no. of course, it is a great party as well, but it gives us an opportunity to -- it is one of the times in the year where we know the whole family will be completely together, and we go into spend a week or two in
close proximity and we will do something that brought us together and made us really happy, which was to renew our vows. tavis: speaking of commitment, what does that do for the marriage when you go through that exercise every year? >> i think it just living by then mantra of being committed. it obviously keeps us focused, not only on our personal lives but in our professional lives. you have to be committed to everything you do. that has to be the approach to everything that both myself and heidi do. it can be pretty rough up there sometimes. so as long as we are committed, first and foremost to each other, and our family, and ourselves, then we tend -- that tends to work best for us. tavis: did i read somewhere that you have committed to doing a television show together? did i read that somewhere?
>> it is in the works. it is based on the -- on what we have been talking about, giving people the opportunity to do that, to have the commitment of their dreams, the marriage of their dreams, the wedding of their dreams. also, giving them the chance to renew their vows and kind of have some of the same stuff that we are fortunate enough to do here. tavis: this is not a heidi-seal reality show. >> no. i cannot think of anything more dreadful. in fact, it is really about people. it is about people's stories, people's lives, which is something that both heidi and i find it fascinating, how people came together. obviously, there are some people who are not as fortunate as we are for one reason or
another, and i think what we are trying to do is give people the opportunity to have that, to kind of realize the wedding of their dreams if they never had that to begin with. if they did, fine, but then it to do it again. when my wife asked for suggested this thing of renewing our bvows, it was something she said of the top of our head. the first time we got married, we had such a great time that we did not want it to finish. so i said to her, there is a reason why it should. she said, what you mean? we should do it next year. it was really her idea. and then we did it next year, and she introduced the whole concept of having a theme, like a fancy dress. the one-year we did the theme of india. the next year it was the 1970's. tavis: you grew a fro? seal with a fro.
i would like to see that. >> i had a very convincing fro. then i had a mullet. that is because we did not go to mexico one year. we also did a trailer trash seemed. theme. it was very strange. this year it was brides and bridegrooms. it is fantastic. it was not just people dressed in conventional bridegroom it and cried at higher. they went all period with it. tavis: they say these it hollywood marriages are not supposed to work. have you been successful at this long enough to do you think to giving advice to people about how and why this works in the business, your marriage? >> company actually, no one told us it was not supposed to work. -- actuate no one told us it was
not supposed to work. neither of us profess to give any kind of advice. we are certainly not marriage counselors. has nothing to do with that. it is basically giving people the opportunity to celebrate their love, and if they want to do that by renewing their vows, then we want to give them the opportunity to do that. but no. in fact, it is as far as you can get from myself or heidi been marriage counselors. that is not what it is about. tavis: good music in a marriage always helps. >> in fact one of the songs are road on my wedding day was "wedding day," which we performed at the victoria's secret show. she is not a singer. she will tell you she is not a singer, but she sings around the house.
we performed it live on stage and it was something that i will always remember. tavis:, last year, for the album of covers you worked with david foster on that. i noticed on this project you are back with david foster again. i am not naive in asking is, but why did foster again? >> i think david is the last of a disappearing breed. i mean that with the greatest respect. he is a truly great, great producer. and i do not use that term easily. or lightly. he has all the skill sos of a true producer, in the same way that quincy jones does. i think him and quincy are possibly the last two i can think of that i would use that term great in terms of what a producer is supposed to be. he has all of those arraigned
and qualities, a great social skills, the ability to handle people's egos, the ability to inspire and be direct with people without offending you, no matter who you are. and he is just a genius himself. in addition to that, he is a great person to be around, a great friend. we had such a good time and with the "soul" album. tavis: the last album was an album of covers and this one is original content. what shift to you have to make is that artist to make this music work? >> that is a great question. i think you just have to stay true. the same rules apply. from david's point of view, the same rules apply. he was in a slightly different and are meant when it came to making this record. that was the goal -- to take him out of that environment. to use the same skill set. the same skill set from my point of view, i think they remain the
same -- integrity. it has to come from thefor doing it. the reason why "soul" can about, i thought that would be the voice of the people for that moment. that is why i chose that song. i take that same sense ability and integrity to make this record. i felt that i had something to say. i felt inspired enough to sing, and it was simply a question of assembling the right team and working with the great david foster in order to do that. tavis: the "soul" project, those covers, having done that, you would want to do that again or been there done that? >> it is possible. all i wanted to do an album of original material first. it is possible we will do it again. you can never say never, but i tell you, it was a huge
undertaking. not so much singing the songs. that was the easy part, but having the kind of courage to do it. those are some great songs. tavis: sam cook is no joke. >> to play what i did now. when you sing a song like "change is gonna come," there are only to people you think of and neither of them are seal. one of the greatest experience that happened to me is that we were playing somewhere in america, and my great hero is otis redding, and we had his family come, his children, his grandchildren, his wife. they came to one of the shows and we met after the show. she turned round to me and said, "otis would have been proud." that was worth the price of admission just to hear her say
that. it is a huge undertaking to sing those songs, but as long as i can get through it without offending anyone, i will be ok. tavis: finally, back to the new project. the sound of this project is a wide as compared to what we are used to hearing from seal? >> i think it is a quintessential seal album, not to talk about myself in the third person because it irritates me when people do that. you'll not comment. i think whatever my style is, and i am still trying to figure that out -- i stopped trying to figure that -- whatever that is, i think it is typical of what people would expect from me, those people who l oved my first and second album, but it is not a repetition of those first two albums. i would like to think it is
quite progressive. tavis: tyfinally, do you think you are still growing as an artist? >> i would like to think so. if i stopped growing, if i stopped learning new things, then i think i would stop doing it. i would have no interest in it. the only thing gets me out of bed in the morning to the studio or to my attic where my wife -- has relegated me. the only thing that gets me doing it is on the off chance that i might write another great song. that is the only reason i do it. once that feeling goes away, i will do something else. tavis: you keep getting up. you seem to deliver. seal has a new project. it is called seal six "commitment". that is our show tonight.
you can access our radio podcast through our web site at pbs.org. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: coming -- join me next time it for a conversation with the breast cancer awareness pioneer, nancy brinker ambassador. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis to remove obstacles to economic and parliament one obstacle at a time.